#20 in Reverse Hitchcock project.
Patrick Hamilton’s play is here brought to the screen with limited takes and locations in one of Hitchcock’s experiments, this time with long takes and no mystery: we see the murder done in the first minute, and we know exactly where the body is hidden.
Farley Granger and John Dall are the students who kill their classmate for being inferior to them: their big idea is then to hold a party in the apartment with the dead man’s friends and family, and their old tutor (James Stewart).
Granger is more nervy and worried, Dall more steely but clearly aroused by his work, their victim ‘merely occupied space’. And so he occupies space in an unlocked trunk while guests socialise around him, and until Stewart rumbles the ruse and discovers the corpse.
Simulating one long take (but instead three or four edited together), ‘Rope’ is necessarily slowed by the need to ensure the camera can follow the action without cross-cutting – using lots of open doors and large rooms, but the tension is still there.
It’s the same kind of plot as an episode of Columbo, where we as viewers know the villain from the start, but done rather well.with an ending which would be echoed in part in ‘Dial M For Murder’ a few years later, with the ending depending on something being left and found.
In terms of the real-life story which inspired this, you might wish to watch ‘Compulsion’ (1959) which gives the murder a different slant – the real story, though, was of gay lovers who kill a child for kicks, which was perhaps too strong meat even for Hitchcock in the censorious 1940s.
A clever film which might work best on a first viewing, and this rewatch in the context of other Hitch films loses this one half a star. Much to enjoy, but there are finer works in the canon.